Australia and China have penned a series of bilateral deals aimed at driving trade and tourism.
During the recent visit of China’s President Xi Jinping to Australia, the two countries penned new agreements covering a range of areas, including visa regulations and air services.
Under the China Free Trade Agreement, the Australian government will grant visas for up to 5,000 business and leisure travellers annually, while a further 1,800 skilled Chinese workers, including chefs and Mandarin language tutors, will be eligible to apply for work visas.
And Qantas has penned a new joint venture with China Eastern Airlines, which is expected to open up new air routes between Australia and China.
Commencing in mid-2015, the five-year deal will see Qantas and China Eastern coordinate their schedules, while Qantas will co-locate with China Eastern at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport, reducing transfer times for onward flight connections. The airlines said they also plan to open up new routes, including services from Brisbane and Perth to Shanghai.
“Coordination means the opportunity to improve schedules and connection times, and to deliver improved products such as a joint lounge and streamlined check-in facilities in Shanghai. It will be a win for our customers and, by making it easier for Chinese travellers to visit Australia, a win for trade and tourism,” said Qantas’ group CEO, Alan Joyce.
Referring to the visa agreement, Carol Giuseppi, acting CEO of Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA), said the move would help the Australian hotel industry.
“Australia is undergoing the largest expansion of its hotel sector in over 20 years, with new hotel developments across the country, so it will be beneficial to have access to a pool of labour to work in both existing and new hotels,” said Ms Giuseppi.
“Their availability will come at a time of record growth in Chinese inbound travel and will cater for the many hotel groups seeking Mandarin-speaking staff. The allocation of more ‘457’ visas to chefs will particularly address a shortage of skilled labour in hotel F&B operations.”
The move will also come as a boost to Tourism Australia’s ‘Tourism 2020’ strategy, which is focusing on driving tourism revenues from emerging markets like China. Chinese visitors contributed AU$4.8 billion (US$4.2bn) in tourism revenues to the Australian economy in 2013. But by 2020, the country expects this to surge to between AU$7.4bn and AU$9bn.
China is now Australia’s largest two-way trading partner in terms of goods and services.